Meditations in Colossians: 23. Enduring, Patient and Joyful
Col 1:10,11 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father,
Life is sometimes tough. I recently sat in a church and heard the leader out front speak of three church members who had recently lost their grandmothers and his ‘seeking to be compassionate’ comment was, ‘Life sometimes is tough’. I’m sorry but that is not tough. Yes it is sad when we lose someone close to us who we love but these were three elderly ladies who had just gone to heaven. That’s not tough; it’s a combination of sad and happiness – sad that we’ve lost them but happy that they are in glory and free from all their elderly infirmities. Tough is when the sky falls on you in the form of a life threatening accident that leaves us disabled, a major life threatening illness, or persecution. That is tough!
If I lose my temper and slap someone and they strike me back and break my jaw, that is not tough, that is stupid. When our own folly brings things on us, that is not tough. Tough is when the ways of a fallen world press down on me and make it incredibly difficult to continue. It is tough when these things happen to those closest to us so the burden of their anguish presses down on us in our love for them.
When life is tough, the temptation comes from the enemy to give up. It’s silly really and irrational because these are the times when we should more than ever seek to stick close to the Lord but when we are feeling low physically, often our emotions also take a nose dive and then we stop thinking rationally and a “I don’t care” mentality descends on us. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. It’s simply the enemy taking the opportunity to have a go at us when we are vulnerable. This is being real for this is what life is like sometimes and the first step to getting through it is to recognise what is happening.
Do you remember David went through this: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psa 42:5,11) He knew what the answer was: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (v.5,6) There are times when these sorts of things drag on. How can I hold out? How can I keep going in the face of these things? How long will I have to wait for things to change? There is a brand of evangelicalism that says we must never accept a negative thought and I am saddened when I see such people desperately struggling but refusing to acknowledge that anything is wrong. This is what living in a fallen world is like; sometimes it is tough.
So what is the answer? Come back to the verses we are considering. Paul prays that they (we) will know God’s will, will bear fruit, will grow in the knowledge of God and be strengthened through God’s unlimited strength and power. It is that power of His own indwelling Holy Spirit that we considered in the previous meditation that sees us through. It’s not a rational thing, it’s a faith thing. He does live in me, He will be my resource, so much so that I will be able to endure, I will hang on, I will not fall away, I will not give up. Part of it is in acknowledging His presence and part of it is turning to Him for help, and part of it is the fact that He is there on my side and purposes to keep me. I won’t just endure, I will have “great endurance”. Even more I will not chaff wondering when it will end; I will rest in His love and His provision and I will be patient. Part of it is my awareness of this provision, part of it is His desire to bring it.
Many years ago my wife had what was genuinely a life-threatening accident. As she lay in A&E while they failed to stop blood flowing, she suddenly thought of our three young children and cried out to the Lord in prayer for them. In the midst of that crisis a gentle voice came from heaven to her, “Don’t you realise that I love them more than you do?” This is the incredible truth, that God is more for us than we are for ourselves. That’s why He sent Jesus to die for us, that’s why he has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us and strengthen us, not only to generally teach and guide us, but to be here for us as a resource, THE resource when we are going through the tough times when we need endurance and patience.
As we remind ourselves of these things, we realise afresh the wonder of them, the wonder of His love and provision for us and as we do that we find a joy welling up within us that produces thankfulness. “Joyfully giving thanks to the Father” is an outworking of all of this, a sign that we have come to know God’s will for us and realise that His power is there within us and He purposes blessing and success for us. Sometimes (and often He waits until we do see these things) He delivers us out of the situation and sometimes He delivers us through the situation. Sometimes He steers us clear of upheavals and at other times He allows us to walk through the upheaval, but whichever it is, He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5)
It was knowing His will and knowing His presence and power that enabled the prophet to declare, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Hab 3:17,18) Why? He knew the circumstances were within God’s will and that they were temporary – and that God was there for him.
It was going through tough times that enabled the apostle Paul to write, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8) That is amazing. It says that not only will we endure, and not only will we find patience in such times, (because of His grace which comes in those forms) but we will be able to be fruitful even such times. Glory be to God, not to the enemy!